So as I mentioned before, my life was pretty basic as a "kid" and honestly didn't really start getting challenging until I got into Jr. High. I think it was actually up until the 5th or 6th grade that my family had deemed Monday nights as family night in which we would read the Bible, discuss, and then play a game. I have never been close to either one of my parents, but definitely closer to my mom than my dad. In Jr. high you were officially unpopular if you didn't have a boyfriend to flaunt in front of others faces, and I sure enough was not one of those girls. I didn't see myself as pretty enough for anyone cute at my school so I started talking to random guys from other schools around the area via myspace and aim. This eventually led to me having my first boyfriend. I was excited to finally feel wanted, but as you can probably guess it wasn't long before he started wanting something else from me if he was going to stick with me. Once again, this was my first boyfriend who I was overly infatuated with and didn't want him leaving me so I went along with it. It wasn't long before his parents found out what was happening and made him call me and break up with me and tell me I could never see/talk to him again. Yes ladies and gentlemen, my first heartbreak episode EVER and it was PAINFUL. I thought I had loved him and didn't know how I was ever going to make someone want me again.
Well, 8th grade eventually came around and I met the second guy who'd ever noticed I existed. I met this guy from church and I actually was excited because I thought it was going to be a good relationship because I met him from church! It wasn't long before we were saying "I love you" and sleeping together. I dated this guy for 2 1/2 years thinking I was going to marry him and be with him forever. I thought life was perfect and couldn't get any better, only to wake up one day and find out his family was just picking up and moving to Texas. After calming down enough to rationalize with myself, we decided to keep our relationship going long distance. The long distance only last another 3-4 months until I decided I just couldn't do it anymore. Eventually I started getting over this guy, yet trying to replace him with guy after guy and it was an endless cycle for a while. I got into partying and lying to my parents about what I was doing, and sneaking guys over.
About a year and a half to two years had passed and nothing had really changed. I was back on the internet looking for guys who were interested in me since no one at school thought very much of me. I had even pretended to be older than I was for this one guy who I liked but was too old for me and after months of talking he insisted on having my phone number so I gave it to him and told him to swear he wouldnt call. Guess what? He called and my parents answered! That was fun....NOT. After that I had given up intentionally trying to meet guys on the internet which is funny, because Myspace is how I met my husband.
Myspace had started up the whole "people you may know" tool and one day Stephen's profile was shown on there and I thought he was cute so I decided to send him a friend request and see if he'd accept. Luckily he did, but we didn't talk at all for months! Finally one random day I get a message from him asking if I was just adding to my friend count or if I was ever going to talk to him. That struck up conversation between the two of us and we started talking for hours on hand through aim everyday. I used to tell him the most obsurd bedtimes stories every night before we signed off to go to bed which I later found out is what made him fall for me. I hadn't even thought about it but months had passed since I had last talked to this Stephen character until one day he signed on and I realized it had been a while. After graduating, Stephen had enlisted in the Army and was away at basic. This one decision he had gone and made that would affect OUR lives forever and we didn't know it. Not long after he got back from basic we had met up to go see a movie and get milkshakes (our first official date). I didn't have my license so my mom had to drop me off at the movies and (funny story here) she had asked me what his name was and I said Stephen...(but pronounced it Stef-en) . We were waiting and waiting for "Stef-en" to show up and my mom kept asking me is that him? is that him? and as embarressing as it was I had to say "Idk." Finally he showed up and our date began.
Things were going well with Stephen, we ended up dating for about 6 months before I broke things off with him. When we met, Stephen was the most innocent 18 year old anyone had ever heard of, and of course things changed. I had gone on a mission trip to the Philippines and came back, knowing I needed change, and to get my life in order. I was sick of pretending to be all spiritual and holy at church and living another life throughout the week. This broke Stephen's heart and mine, which is why the breakup only lasted a couple of days. We got back together for about a month and then I just had to break it off again. I wasn't okay with being on the worship team and yet having sex with my boyfriend. James and Amanda who were the youth pastors at the time, were inspiring to be so much more and to want so much more for my life.
Although we had stayed broken up, it was still hard to pursue God like I was wanting to. Stephen and I still talked from time to time, until I had to end communication for a while because it was making things worse. When I was ready to start talking with him again, he informed me of his interest in another girl. My heart shattered all over again. What Stephen and I had, was what EVERY girl dreams of. That "i'm young and in love and walking on clouds say what you want to eachother stay up all night staring at the stars being goofy together" kind of love. I didn't know how to take that he had moved on...I started cutting myself to help take away from the pain of him being gone and the thought of him with someone else. there was one night where I even carved his name on my leg and sent a picture of it to him. I had absolutely 100% fallen off the deep end.
My mom got me on antidepressents and life started to seem "better". My ex that had moved to texas moved back to oregon and we started hanging out again and partying together and doing whatever made us feel better about ourselves. Life had just become a game for me, I hated God and how religious I felt like my parents were being with me. Life sucked, because I made it suck. One day about 7-8 months later, I got a text from Stephen wanting to know how I was doing and if he was allowed to talk to me ( I had given him a piece of my mind and told him to stay away from me in every way). He was at drill and had been thinking of me for some time due to the music he was listening to (we would listen to it and sing to it in his car ALL the time when we were together). Stephen went on to say he was sorry about what had happened between us and that as much as he was trying to live it up with other girls and replace me, he couldnt. I had a lot of people tell me not to get back with him, but of course I didn't listen. Ever since we had gotten back together there had been NOTHING but drama from the previous girl situations he had gotten hiself in...our life was hell until he moved away from all of that and closer to me.
Things started looking up and our relationship got closer and stronger. I was focused on getting through beauty school, he was focused on preparing for his upcoming deployment. We made a promise to try as hard as we could to make it through the rough deployment as a couple. I wanted so badly for him to propose before he left, but his plan was to buy the ring on his way back and propose when he got home. It was a cold january day when I started realizing how hungry I was getting all of the time, how much I had to pee, that my jeans were getting tighter, and that for the first time in my life...I had felt bloaded. Yep, we were pregnant! 4 months before He's supposed to leave for Iraq and I'm pregnant. What we had been doing in the dark had been brought to light and I had no idea how to feel about it. Some people might think I'm crazy but I wanted to be happy that I had a part of Stephen to forever hold onto just in case he didn't come back from Iraq. I knew we were in the wrong but I wanted to be happy. Telling my parents was easy which was VERYYYYYY surprising. Telling Stephen's parents was what scared me so bad.
After a lot of thinking, we decided to get married before stephen left so that Malachi's birth would be completely covered, we had more money to provide for the family we were starting, and so we still had the chance to get married for fear that it wouldn't happen if he got killed. We felt A LOT of pressure, but we knew we loved eachother, knew we wanted to get married anyway, and knew we'd do what it takes to make this work. It's funny now looking back at the situation we were in, because we got married in a hurry for all of the wrong reasons. There have been so many times where I've felt like my marriage isn't blessed by God because it's not one of those great stories where God brings two people together and things just work out perfectly. There have been times where I'd wonder if Stephen married me because it was the "right" thing to do. There were so many uncertainties and issues that we were dealing with in our first year of marriage, across the planet from one another. Our first year of marriage was absolute hell, and it didn't help that I was extremely hormonal.
It was the most awkward thing in the world, asking Pastor Jack to marry us given that we were pregnant sinners. I'm so thankful for how loving Jack and Shelly have been to us. Like I said, our first year of marriage spent seperated was hell. I told Stephen I hated him at times, I told him I wanted a divorce because we weren't supposed to be together, I was still trying to live as the same selfish individual Is before I entered this marriage. Stephen and I knew that we needed change, and a big one. We decided to start searching for a church home together, some place small where we can get plugged in and have some real intimate relationships with others. We decided to give Won by One Ministries a try to see if it was a fit, and sure enough it's perfect. It's been hard to get to know people on a deeper level because that involves stepping outside of your comfort zone which I'm not always good at with conversation. We've gotten plugged into small groups with other amazing couples. We've learned just how much other people's marriages have struggled and that it's taken them a long time to understand eachother better. We've learned that it's okay to not have all of the answers, we've learned that we're wanted, most of all...that we are loved. God has been doing some amazing transformation in both Stephen and I since we've taken some steps in our lives. We still get in fights, I still scream my head off at him sometimes. I'm still learning to deal with my anger, and that he's not trying to be a bad husband when he says certain things or asks questions. All in all, WE'RE STILL LEARNING and we've found that that's okay.
From everything I've shared tonight, what I want all of you to take away from this, is that I have been redeemed. I still have friends that associate me with things of my past and as hurtful as it can be when they bring it up, I still know that I could have done so much worse with my life, I could still be out destroying it. Instead, I've made a decision to agknowledge that YES, I've messed up over and over and over. I've slept with too many guys, I've drank way too much alcohol, I've hit the love of my life out of anger before, I got pregnant before I was married, and ignored God for far too long. I've messed up, but I've asked God to renew me, I've asked Him to take away the lies of the enemy that I can't be new again, that I don't have a fresh start, that I'm just an overly used girl who got lucky that the man who knocked her up stuck around. I've given up the lies that I'm not good enough, prettty enough, skinny enough to be with my husband compared to the other girls he could have had. I've given God all of these burdens that people have tried to hold me down with. I am a new creation and I've still got my life ahead of me to live for God and give people a better impression. So just STOP. Stop associating me with things I've screwed up on, stop associating yourself with areas you've screwed up. God is right here, He want's to be close to you, He wants to show you what you were made for! God is SO much bigger than any of us could even try to wrap our heads around...so don't try. Just dwell in Him and you will be the happiest you'll ever be.
To the outside human eye, my life may not be all peachy great, but in my eyes, my life is so worthwhile because I've got God as my anchor. Let the same God that fills me with joy, fill you tonight. I hope my testimony gave hope for who it was inteded.